HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Industry and Chairman of Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah International Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development, said that the establishment of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) took place under exceptional circumstances experienced by the global energy industry.
In an interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA) on the occasion of the 7th GECF Summit in Algeria on February 29-March 2, al-Attiyah said the idea to establish the Forum emerged in response to the challenges faced by this vital sector after the global demand for natural gas increased since it is an important, clean source for industrial production and electricity generation.
He added that the Forum was established in 2001 by a group of major gas-producing countries, including Qatar, Algeria, and Russia, as an organisation to co-ordinate and develop the gas industry, enhance co-operation among producing countries and achieve balance in global energy markets through exploring the best ways to ensure the sustainability of global gas supplies, taking into account the significant challenges faced by energy markets during that period.
He pointed out that since its establishment, the Forum aimed to co-ordinate among gas-exporting countries to achieve optimal sustainability in the production and utilisation of this important energy source amid price fluctuations and market pressures through the exchange of experiences, opinions, information, and co-ordination among gas-exporting countries in regards to global trends in gas exploration, production, and transportation through both pipeline networks and liquefied natural gas carriers. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and the current and expected balance between supply and demand, he said.
He emphasised the necessity of enhancing and developing effective channels for dialogue between gas producers and consumers through international and regional energy organisations and forums to ensure stability and reduce undesirable fluctuations in gas markets. Hence, the establishment of the GECF responded to a set of challenges and opportunities in the global energy field, he explained.
On a question about his vision for the future of the gas industry, al-Attiyah said that natural gas faces numerous challenges as a fossil fuel source, given the growing awareness of climate change impacts and increasing demands to reduce reliance on fossil energy sources contributing to global warming and shift toward renewable energy sources as a more sustainable alternative.
He added that many countries are taking measures to reduce reliance on fossil energy, including imposing carbon taxes and supporting renewable energy projects. However, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, also face challenges such as high infrastructure costs, developing efficient energy storage technologies, and the intermittent nature of production, which is not always available when needed, he said, pointing out that natural gas currently holds a prestigious position among energy sources, surpassing previous perceptions that considered it a "bridge" between the era of total reliance on fossil fuels and the era of renewable energy.
Additionally, gas has high flexibility in usage, easily entering various applications, including electricity generation and heating, he explained, adding that gas demonstrates high efficiency in power generation compared to some other sources and is usually a cost-effective alternative, making it an attractive economic option for many industries. Advanced hydrogen production technologies also play a crucial role in enhancing the position of natural gas in the transition toward a more sustainable energy system.
Al-Attiyah highlighted natural gas' significant role in the short and medium term global energy field. In the long term, it may be influenced by technological, political, and environmental developments, especially in areas such as emissions legislation and taxes, while the focus on developing renewable energy sources, improving storage and distribution could lead to a reduced reliance on natural gas in some cases in the future.
He also pointed out that natural gas will continue providing a large portion of the global energy in the long term, with countries possessing significant gas reserves playing a crucial role in supplying energy to the world. The future of natural gas will depend on the ability of countries to develop new technologies to reduce carbon emissions.
Al-Attiyah believed that the Summit confirms the central role of member states in the global energy system, as they possess the largest share of natural gas resources and production. It also highlights the ability of members to meet the global need for modern, reliable and sustainable energy, especially given the growing share of natural gas in the global energy field due to its positive environmental contributions in mitigating climate change.
Natural gas plays a vital role in climate change mitigation efforts since it is less environmentally impactful compared to other fossil fuel sources, al-Attiyah said, explaining that the emissions from its combustion contain lower amounts of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. This contributes to addressing environmental challenges and supporting efforts to combat climate change.
Additionally, technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage open avenues for sustainable uses of natural gas in energy generation and emissions-intensive industries like steel, cement, and chemicals, he added.
On the challenges that the Forum members can overcome to become more effective in the energy market, he pointed out that the GECF works to co-ordinate the efforts of exporters and support their vision by emphasising the need for fair pricing that reflects the true cost of natural gas, considering its increasing importance in global energy markets.
Al-Attiyah pointed out that the Forum should highlight its balanced vision that places significant emphasis on the interests of both producers and consumers. This approach aims to create an environment that encourages constructive dialogue and enhances relationships among all stakeholders, contributing to the strengthening of co-operation and the establishment of new partnerships.
He highlighted the need for member states to strive towards classifying natural gas as an environmentally friendly product in international investment, banking services, and global trade systems, stressing the importance of working with relevant stakeholders to participate in the development of climate action initiatives, especially with the increasing global environmental awareness, and as many countries are revising their energy policies to adopt greater diversity.
He said that member countries should also explore new areas of collaboration and develop the Forum's expertise to benefit from the advantages provided by natural gas, such as producing blue hydrogen, reducing routine gas flaring and methane emissions, and developing technologies for carbon capture, use and storage.
Dismissing the idea of the Forum transforming into an organisation similar to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), al-Attiyah explained the difference between the oil and the gas industry, in terms of gas pricing, which varies from one market to another, and the different production and transportation methods and the mechanisms behind contracts between producers and consumers compared to oil sales and purchases, which often rely on spot transactions in most markets.
He noted that the Forum, with its 12 members and 7 observer countries, holds a significant position on the international level, as these countries collectively possess over 70% of the world's confirmed gas reserves, more than 40% of marketed gas production, around 50% of pipeline exports, and over half of global LNG exports. Some member states are among the world's largest natural gas exporters, such as Qatar and Russia, he pointed out.
He added that the establishment of the Forum came as a co-operative effort among the producing countries to enhance the fair value of natural gas in light of its increasing importance as a primary energy source, strengthen co-operation in research, innovation, and technology development related to the natural gas industry, and promote the exchange of experiences and information, as well as co-ordination to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of natural gas. Al-Attiyah highlighted the Forum's effective role in co-ordinating efforts among exporters, supporting their vision regarding the importance of pricing natural gas fairly to reflect its true production cost.
Al-Attiyah stressed that the analysis of future demand for oil and gas should be comprehensive, considering all factors that may affect energy markets. This enables informed and thoughtful investment decisions in this sector.
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